by Xinhua writer Hu Tao
An unprecedented air cargo relay is taking place in the global skies, as China endeavors to ensure its safety and efficiency together with aviation players worldwide.
Air cargo has become increasingly important in the global anti-pandemic fight due to growing demands for medical and other vital supplies. Great challenges lie ahead for government authorities and airlines.
China is making persistent and comprehensive efforts to facilitate the global relay in the air.
COMMITMENT TO INT'L COMMUNITY
The civil aviation authorities of China have continuously introduced encouraging policies, guidance and "green channels" to ensure the smooth and safe operation of airlines in their cargo missions at home and abroad.
China has provided support to the international community within its capacity while ensuring its domestic epidemic control and prevention, said Jin Junhao, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
China's international air cargo capacity has been gradually expanded thanks to the CAAC's multiple effective measures, such as cutting the costs of carriers, establishing "green channels" for flight approval and introducing point-to-point charter cargo flights.
In the April 20-26 period, for instance, China maintained 1,989 weekly scheduled cargo flights with 93 overseas destinations in 45 countries.
The number of flights represented a 17.7-percent increase from the week earlier, or an increase of 96.2 percent from the weekly flight tally before the outbreak of COVID-19.
While ensuring the cargo flight volume and frequency for emergency supplies, the CAAC has also taken comprehensive safety measures, especially as some carriers are adapting their passenger airplanes for cargo missions.
The CAAC has issued a notice for guaranteeing safety when utilizing passenger aircraft for cargo flights, aiming at guiding carriers to fully evaluate their passenger airplanes for cargo flights and ensure safe operation of such services.
STRENGTH OF CHINESE AIRLINES
Given the government's policies and guidance, major Chinese airlines manifest their strength by increasing efficiency and capacity in expanding the air cargo transport network at home and abroad.
Thanks to the country's decades-long efforts in cultivating the civil aviation industry, major Chinese airlines have been generating power by expanding their fleet and serving capacity.
China Southern Airlines, the country's largest air carrier, is now sending 185 international cargo flights weekly to support the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Guangzhou-based China Southern is the largest air carrier in Asia, with a fleet of more than 860 airplanes by the end of 2019.
The company is serving the global anti-pandemic fight on its international cargo flight network reaching Europe, North America, Oceania, Africa, the Middle East, West Asia and Southeast Asia.
SF Airlines, China's largest air cargo carrier, uses its all-cargo freighters to provide medical supplies and other necessities for daily life and work resumption.
The airline has been exploring potential uses of its fleet of 58 all-cargo freighters and air logistics linking more than 60 destinations worldwide.
JOINT RELAYING EFFORTS
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on April 28 released a report for March air cargo performance, which demonstrated a severe and immediate capacity shortfall.
The gap between transport demand and capacity must be addressed quickly "because vital supplies must get to where they are needed most," said Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the IATA.
The Chinese civil aviation authorities are adopting flexible measures to relieve pressure between cargo transport demands and the capacity of domestic and global carriers.
Since February, the CAAC has approved a total of 3,178 added charter flights carried by all-cargo freighters, and 1,873 added cargo flights carried by use of idle passenger airplanes, according to statistics from the CAAC.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines launched special air cargo flights linking cities between the Netherlands and China on April 13 to provide the rapid transportation of medical equipment and other emergency supplies, according to KLM China.
In the April 27-May 3 period, the airline will operate 19 cargo flights between the Netherlands and multiple destinations in China, to ensure the continuous supply of medical supplies from China.
Delta Air Lines, one of the major airlines of the United States, is now using cargo flights to maintain a China-U.S. "lifeline" of vital supplies, according to the airline.
To date, Delta has increased its China-U.S. air cargo services to 14 flights per week.
"Increasing our cargo flights means suppliers in China can get these items to frontline workers throughout the U.S. far more rapidly than if they were transported via cargo ship," said Shawn Cole, vice president with Delta Cargo. Enditem